Right now life is about keeping nature out of my house. There is a large frog or toad (No, I won’t google it.) that keeps coming into the house. The first time I saw him was behind the dining room table. He was facing north so I thought, Okay. Good feng shui, I’ll go with it. Plus, I was too tired.

Second time, I almost stepped on him. He didn’t feel like the cat and when I turned on the light, there he was. I did manage to capture him in my dirty laundry and throw him out which is why I wondered how he managed to get back in again. Doesn’t he get the hint?

There is also an insane amount of ants that keep climbing around every crevice and corner. I discovered them in the kitchen on the ceiling after I had done the kind of deep cleaning that you do when you are getting ready to move. They like the upstairs bathroom, living room and outside where I walk and they bite! Then last night I saw a line of them from my bedroom to the bathroom.

As I was heading back upstairs for bug spray, a large spider greeted me. Now, I’m used to killing spiders because I’ve had to become accustomed to them enjoying my bedroom. But this guy, this guy made me gasp. In these situations I’ve learned that the shoe is the best weapon.

Also, a couple of times after I have taken a shower I’d grab my towel only to find a large lizard ka-plunk on to the floor. He doesn’t bother me though. I know his days are numbered with the cats in the house. Then today, after work, I saw a different colored, oh I don’t know 12 inch lizard chillin’ in my bathroom sink.

This all reminds me of the McDonalds Factor. That desire for something familiar in unfamiliar territory, for something to feel normal when life feels not so normal. The McDonalds Factor is something the brain recognizes and is comforted by, because this house, this country is re-training me in ways that feel both hot and cold.

You see, expats go through these cravings, not unlike a pregnant woman, craving all the things they normally would not. That is to say, they crave McDonalds.

My friend and I were near the McDonalds (with a drive thru!) when he decided he must have a Big Mac. We discussed how we do not eat McDonalds when we are in the States but here!? it’s a novelty and a half, with the taste of french fries hitting the home run.

Things that we took for granted, things we didn’t even like, are infused with the fresh scent of I WANT IT. So, it’s interesting what we can do without and what nibbling pleasure we can get from ordinary and previously repulsive things. ..just because the mind recognizes it.

Equally fascinating is if Thailand, Chiang Mai suddenly was inundated with all the fast food and chains that we “missed” from back home, Chiang Mai would cease to be so Chiang Mai. It would look like a city trying to be American, and I wonder after the fun of that wore off, if expats would just start to resent the presence of Big Business?

Places, cities, towns, countries, should be unique. One of the things I started to notice about towns back home were the lack of mom and pop stores and the profusion of brand names and lack of character. I’m not ready for that to happen to Chiang Mai.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great finding those products from home. It really is. And I enjoy fast food like anyone else from time to time. I’m sure psychologically there is an explanation. I mean I’m enjoying the teeny bop TV show Glee and mainstream music which I’m sure is my way of regressing and progressing in my life as an American abroad.

But I have no desire to move back. I just need a McDonalds “quarter pounder” and fries occasionally to remind me of the place where I grew up and then I can motorbike home to my cabin in the bamboo woods.


11 replies on “The McDonalds Factor

  1. Hi Lani, I enjoyed reading your post. Personally I have observed people who emigrated, gradually started to exaggerate parts of their identity as a means to compensate for all things alien, such as you more or less describe with the McDonald's factor. For example I have witnessed friends who were mildy religious before, slowly became much more orthodox abroad.The're several villages in the US and Canada inhabited by Dutch people who emigrated after the war and they have become extreme Christians, to such an extend that I would be not be able to exchange a single decent word with them.This phenomenon might also explain why foreign countries seem have good soil for 'growing' the occasional extremist.It makes sense to me that as a more or less sleeping member of the 'McDonald church', you like to go there now more often than at home. When I grew up, apart from some supermarkets we didn't have any chain stores, so I don't have much to hold on to 😦 , but I do appreciate a good Italian meal or a German breakfast for example.If I do eat a burger from McDonald's, since it's sometimes the only place open after a night of boozin', I always regret my choice after the first bite. (Burger King is so much better :)Still, the're countries out there who offer a complete MacFree holiday..See:http://www.i-nomad.com/2011/02/40-countries-which-are-safe-to-visit.html


  2. 555 – thanks for the link ;)Yes I agree BK is better but more expensive. Actually I don't eat McDonalds very often or even more, as you suggest. On good ol American road trips, I usually stop in fast food joints so that is when I get my fix. But!It's really the novelty of it. Here, MickeyDs becomes something out of the ordinary – dare I say it? special :)And you do bring up an interesting point. I've noticed the British become more British (god forbid). Their accents stronger, their egos bigger (555), just kidding. Not really.Americans too! Isn't identity a funny thing?


  3. The McDonald’s Factor [I do believe you’ve coined the phrase]. What makes us who we are? How do strangers in strange places define themselves? What are our touchstones to our origins?Food would be an important touchstone, and an iconic American lunch served in a quintessentially American restaurant…add some bunting, and you’ve got a 4th of July picnic [almost]. I haven't been inside a McDonalds in years, but I can appreciate the attraction & lure.This was another great post, with several related thoughts, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.Regards from Ken C.By the way, do all your floor drains have grates? That could be how your frog friend drops in [or “hops” in].


  4. Hi Ken,Thanks for stopping by! 😉 If I can direct your attention to the bathroom sink, I have discovered Mr Frog slips in through the hole (not the drain) on the side of the sink.Mr Toad, on the other hand, hops in through the back door. I believe.As I-Nomad pointed out, I think strangers define themselves in a strange place by becoming more “American” or “British”. It seems we like to cling to these ideas or they become more accessible in a society that we find handicapped of our cultural ideals….


  5. lani, I love it and can totally relate to this post. Last night I went out to the balcony for a smoke and there was a large tokay lizard chillin in my sink…and he wasn't a scurrier, he just kinda looked at me as if to say “well, a little water would be nice”.And ants are a problem everywhere, I live on the 5th floor and one morning I woke up to a heavy ant line marching from my balcony and out underneath the front door…I guess my room was the short cut 😛


  6. Yeah it's a funny thing about Thailand. I think most expats or tourists think about the culture and people of Thailand…they don't think about the little critters and nature visiting all the time! It's a crazy surprise 😉


  7. Lani, I'm happy to say I didn't buy Maccas once when in Chiang Mai…only a coffee there.The one time I went to a Western food chain outlet (under duress I might add) was with my daughter, to Pizza Hut.'You'll be sorry' I told her…and we were. As in Western countries, foreign food is often tailored to suit different tastes, and somehow I don't think I'll ever get used to sugary pizzas or pasta bakes.Embrace the toad/frog…he obviously loves you!


  8. Yes and yes, Lani! See you know what I’m talking about here!
    I can’t believe the “creatures” in your place. You’re braver than I, this makes me think that perhaps I should stop wishing that Korea was more tropical!
    The frog may be the weakest point for me…


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